'Child trafficking thriving in Jalpaiguri's tea gardens'



Kolkata: With a number of tea gardens in Jalpaiguri district closed or reported to be sick, hundreds of children whose parents worked there, are being trafficked each year, a report said on Friday.

Highlighting the vulnerability of children living near the defunct tea gardens of Dooars, the joint study was done by UNICEF, Save the Children and Burdwan University. The report says it has been estimated that 3500 children migrated from 12 tea gardens in 2010.

"Children of Adivasi, poor and large families specially girls are prime targets," the report said.

"Many never return and nearly 8 to 10 children out of every 100 migrating every year go missing and the same number of children per tea garden is being trafficked every year," it said.

Delhi remains the most preferred destination followed by Kerala, Sikkim, Punjab, Bangalore and Bhutan.

"Poverty was ranked as the number one contributing factor, as labourers are left to fend for themselves by tea garden owners who abandon their estates without paying salary/wages, provident fund and gratuity to them," the report said.

It was followed by unemployment, poor wages, large family, illiteracy and promise of a better life.

Save the Children's state programme manager Jatin Mondar said poverty is just one of the many contributing factors in child trafficking but not the root cause of the problem.

"The level of poverty among the labourers in tea gardens is the result of deep rooted and long-term undevelopment in these areas," he said. Lack of educational and health infrastructure have also been affecting the children, the report observed.

Only five out of 12 gardens have secondary schools while only two have higher secondary schools.

Only four out of 12 tea gardens have arranged transportation but the students have to pay for this.

Malnutrition, lung infection, chest pain, headache and water borne diseases are frequent among children due to poor diet, contaminated drinking water and unhygienic conditions, the report said.

PTI